Rum, Vanilla & Pearls

 

Tahaa, the Vanilla Island.

 

We weighed anchor at 7:30am heading around the coast to Haamene Bay, where we hoped to find a car rental. Unfortunately, while the guide we are using book is very informative, it’s also very out of date. Things change quickly out here, and little is as it says it is in our book, even our “Lonely Planet” guide book (only 4 years old) for Tahiti and French Polynesia, is already quite out of date.

 

As we turned into the bay we received a call on the vhf from Tama (a local guide), he was offering to take us on a tour of the island. We told him that we had planned to rent a car, but thanked him and continued to try to pick up a mooring ball outside the Hibiscus hotel. The wind had picked up and was blowing strongly, also there was no pick up line on the mooring ball, after several attempts I was unable to grab it, so we decided to go further into the bay to look for the area the guide book had recommended for anchoring. As I mentioned earlier things change, and the 25 meters depth mentioned in the book was now over 100 feet, much too deep for the length of anchor we have on Daisy. After circling the bay several times unsuccessfully trying to locate a safe anchorage, we decided to return to Haamene bay, the bay we had just left and call Tama and ask him if he would pick us up there in an hour and take us on a tour. This decision turned out to be the best we could have made, and the following tour the best we have taken so far.

 

Our first stop on our tour was to Tama’s home, (where he kindly took our bags of garbage for disposal). His home was absolutely beautiful, built right on the waters edge with a long pier out into the bay. We were invited to look around his home which was beautifully constructed from all local timbers and stone, the tables, chairs, stairs and stair rails were all formed from tree branches that had been stripped and polished, the table tops were constructed from huge tree trunk sections, that had been highly polished, beautiful works of art. Tama gave us both some delicious Pomello to eat, then took us outside to the pier.

This lead to a beautiful little thatched building situated right at the end. Inside was a large double bed, a small neat kitchen area a bathroom and a surrounding deck with a swinging seat. Large floor to ceiling windows all around the ocean side of the building looked out over the most amazing view of the bay. I didn’t want to leave it was all so beautiful.

Our next stop was just opposite Tama’s house (all be it, up what felt like a mountain). We climbed back into the car and he drove us UP one of the steepest roads winding up to a little guesthouse. The views down over the bay and the island were breathtaking. The little thatched guesthouse was immaculately furnished; an enormous bed took pride of place in the room overlooking the bay through the floor to ceiling windows. The bed had a headboard fashioned out of heavy tree branches. There was a large area to the back of the building, behind Japanese style sliding doors that housed an enormous shower, vessel sink and separate toilet. Wooden decks on several levels around the guesthouse lead to a covered outside kitchen with a bar, tables, chairs and a swing seat. The house is available for rent, and would be absolutely wonderful for a stay on the island, as long as you have a head for heights!

 

Tama asked us if there was anywhere in particular we would like to visit on Tahaa, he had many suggestions, including a visit to the rum factory (this made Bob smile).

I had made a note of some of the places that I wanted to visit including; a vanilla plantation, a pearl farm and a turtle rescue foundation; “Foundation Hibiscus”, run by hotel Hibiscus. The foundation was dedicated to saving turtles, which had become entangled in local fishing nets. The hotel would buy the turtles from the fishermen and keep them in pens next to the hotel’s pier where they would tag them and feed them daily until they were large enough to be released. Sadly Tama informed us that the foundation had to close, he also told us that in their time they had saved over 1600 turtles.

 

We stopped at a local supermarket where I was able to buy some beautiful, organic, locally grown tomatoes, as well as a few other essentials, and Bob was able to get cash from the ATM.

 

Our next stop was the Pearl Farm. Previously, Bob and I have not had much luck with pearl farms, they have either been closed, unwilling to sell to the public, or tourist stops masquerading as pearl farms and selling at inflated prices. Buying pearls out here has not turned out to be as easy as I originally thought. However, with Tama’s help things were possibly about to change.

We were introduced to the owner Philip Chan, at “Ia Orana Pearl Farm” where we were able to watch the grafting process, as it was explained to us in detail by Tama. There was also a small shop at the farm offering loose pearls of different grades for sale as well as finished jewellery. The prices seemed very fair in comparison to what I’ve come across so far. Tama also makes jewellery using black pearls, and had a few loose pearls that I was able to buy from him at a very fair price.

 

Next was the Rum factory “Domaine de Pari Pari” in the bay de Tapuamu. A small operation where Bob was very interested in the machinery, but I was more interested in the various oils they produced. We did buy some rum, not generally my drink of choice, but this rum was different to anything I’ve tasted so far and I loved it. Having purchased a bottle, some oils, soaps and books we headed off to our next stop “lunch”!

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Here I am, notice the big silly grin, I have about five kilos of Vanilla pods and a bottle of rum…

 

Restaurant “Tahaa Maitai”, in Haamene Bay. A fabulous stop for lunch or dinner. Tama had some business to attend to, so he dropped us off here after introducing us to Chef Bruno and his wife. The restaurant is in a lovely setting overlooking the bay. The menu offers a delicious selection of fresh seafood, with organically grown local fruits and vegetables. A fabulous selection of sorbets, as well as other very tempting, French style deserts were on offer.

 

As we were the last people to leave the restaurant Chef Bruno had time to come over to chat to us. He was keen to show us his collection of whiskies from around the world, which he was obviously very enthusiastic about. It brought to mind our good friend Leo, (another whisky aficionado); I must remember to tell him of this restaurant he would love it. Having said that, I will tell all I know of this wonderful place.

As it was lunchtime and we were on a tour, so not wanting to spend several hours around the lunch table, Bob and I simply ordered a goat cheese salad and a glass of red wine. The extensive wine list was very tempting and impressive (must bring Paul & Trish back here), but if we were to continue our tour, a bottle may have been too much. The salad was really fresh, absolutely scrumptious, the red wine delicious (should have asked what it was!), I was starting to wish we had decided to spend the afternoon at the restaurant sampling the wines and whisky’s, but then I would have never made it back to the boat and we would have missed our next stop.

 

The Vanilla Farm was next, where we were introduced to Mateo, the owner. He had finished for the day and everything was closed, but a word from Tama and he opened up for us. Mateo kindly walked us through the vanilla production process with Tama as translator. I was able to buy some vanilla pods, 13 for just $40, (I pay $11 for 2 in the US), I feel the need to make some delectable desserts.

 

Tama dropped us off at our dinghy later that afternoon and we promised to keep in touch. It had been such a fun, informative and productive tour, we had not only made new friends, we had local (delicious) rum, vanilla, oils, herbs, fruits, tomatoes, books, pearls, and other bits and pieces from the trip.

 

I can’t recommend Tama highly enough as a tour guide for Tahaa. He will give you the best tour, and take you to the best places, he is also fluent in three languages, French, Italian and English. He knows everyone on the island so expect lots of introductions.

 

The contact information for Tama, as well as the other businesses I mentioned are below:

 

Tama Castagnoli: Tel : Home: (689) 40 65 62 26 Mobile: (689) 87 37 14 93

Call him on VHF 16, (and switch to 77 )

Email: castagnoli@mail.pf

 

 

Ia Orana Pearl Farm

Tel: (689) 87 71 30 78 or (689) 87 76 59 03

Email: pearlmantahaa@mail.pf

Facebook: iaorana pearl farm

Owner Philip Chan Tel: (689) 87 71 30 78

 

Restaurant Tahaa Maitai:

Chef Francois Bruno

Tel: (689) 40 65 70 85 or Mobile: (689) 87 74 02 07

Email: tahaa-maitai@mail.pf

 

Domaine de Pari Pari

Baie de Tapuamu

Tel: (689) 40 65 61 74

Email: PARIPARI@mail.pf

 

Vanilla Farm Information available from Tama

 

 

Definitely ‘NOT’ Paradise Today!

 

 

Following a week of idyllic weather, a strong weather front was predicted to move across later today, promising strong winds and squalls. Bob made the decision to move the boat ahead of the storm to another more secure anchorage. We were currently anchored just off Vahine Island resort where the depth went very suddenly from 100+ feet to 40, down to 12, down to… not much!

 

We had dropped anchor in about 25 feet and had held well for the last week with the easterly winds, but the predicted weather front with changeable winds could swing us around with a possibility that we would end up over the shallows.

It was a bit of a grey day so we decided to move the boat straight after breakfast. Unfortunately the predicted front arrived 8 hours earlier than it was forecast. The wind started blowing hard; by 9am we had 25 knots of wind gusting to 30, not an optimum time to bring up anchor in an area where you needed to navigate cautiously to avoid the shallows. With dark skies we were unable to see through the water, and the charts for this area had already proven to be wrong, so we were not relying on them for a safe passage out.

 

We waited for a lull between the wind and the squalls, then attempted to bring up the anchor, I say “attempted” because the chain had become wrapped around a rock on the seabed and was held fast (and I mean held fast!). Bob maneuvered the boat while I tried again and again to free the chain. The wind had picked up again and was now blowing a consistent 30+ knots. I let out more chain to give Bob room to swing the boat around but with the wind and strong current it was making it almost impossible, another heavy squall hit us and we had to take cover.

Due to having brought the chain up and down several times, in my attempt to free it from its hold on the seabed. I was unsure as to how much chain we now had down, I thought there was about 100 feet, which should be more than enough for the depth of water we were in, but was also enough for us to swing out over the shallows with an odd wind shift. The wind was now gusting to 40 knots and the heavy rain made it impossible for Bob to do anything other than attach two snubbers.

evidence of the snap! evidence of the snap!

We both hunkered down under the protection of the dodger to wait out the storm, both of us believing it would calm down soon. (Wrong!) The wind didn’t drop much below 30 knots the whole day. To think it was only a couple of days ago that we Skyped Edi and showed him the delightful beach resort where we were taking a leisurely lunch, how quickly things change

 

I watched the Resorts little ferryboat bouncing around in the waves, transporting guests to the airport on Raiatea, and bringing new guests back. I felt so sorry for the people arriving for what has to be a very expensive vacation, in a storm like this. Their little boat really struggled to come alongside on their jetty, it was being tossed about like a cork, in the end it had to go around to the service dock to get the people safely off.

 

All day we waited and hoped for the storm to abate, with no joy. At noon we heard a loud bang, we both thought a wave had hit the side of the boat, then about an hour later there was another bang, we checked throughout the boat, everything seemed OK, so again we assumed it had been a wave. A third bang confirmed one of our snubbers had snapped. The boat was bouncing up and down in the waves so much the anti-chaff had been pushed down the line, so the bare line was rubbing against the steel anchor housing, wearing it so thin that it had eventually snapped in two.

 

Fighting against the relentless wind and squalls, Bob attached another snubber and adjusted the remaining one as best he could so it wasn’t in danger of wearing through as well.

 

For twelve hours Daisy has been bouncing up and down, pulling on the chain so hard it was creaking and groaning loudly every. With the wind still blowing well over 30 knots and gusting to 40 it seemed this nightmare was never ending.

 

I’m writing this at 8:30 at night, I’ve no idea whether either of us will get any sleep tonight we’re both quite exhausted (well at least I am), Bob is up on deck every 15 minutes checking the anchor chain and the hold of the snubbers.

 

So as I’m writing this, there’s suddenly two loud bangs, we both rush up on deck to see that our other snubber has shredded. “crap, crap crap”!

 

The snubber’s that Bob uses to secure the anchor on Daisy are often laughed at by others, as they are so huge they would hold a vessel four times Daisy’s weight, slight overkill one might think! However, in these savage, relentless conditions we managed to snap them both in the space of 12 hours! Bob then spent another hour in 35 to 40 knot winds attaching two more hastily made snubbers. If we’re still afloat in the morning I’ll write more…

This is going to be a long night…

 

After much ridiculous panicking on my part, I fell exhausted into bed just before 1am. The wind had finally dropped into the mid 20’s, not low enough for Bob to comfortably leave his watch, so he stayed up a little longer, under a promise to wake me if he had to venture back out on the fore deck. Eventually sometime after 2am the wind calmed enough for Bob to grab some sleep.

 

I could write an entire blog about what transpired the following morning, but I don’t wish to bore my readers with the tale of how brilliant my performance as “first mate” eventually turned out to be.

Suffice to say: After four stressful hours of trying unsuccessfully to maneuver Daisy and untangle our anchor chain, and scratching a load of paint off our newly painted hull, I got into the dinghy and with a little help and advice from Bob at the helm, I managed to push her around to a position where I could leap back onboard and bring up the chain… Much whooping and self-congratulary slaps on the back took place. I honestly thought we were going to have to drop the entire chain and leave it there, there was absolutely no way after a day and a half of struggling with the anchor that I ever thought we would get it up.

Happily, I can finally throw aside the “useless crew member” cap that I awarded myself when we bought Daisy ten years ago…

Le Tahaa Private Island & Spa.

 

Relais & Chateaux, Five Star Island Resort in French Polynesia.

 

So spoilt! I find myself once again in just another version of Polynesian Paradise. We were anchored inside the lagoon of Tahaa and Raiatea next to the private Island resort of “Le Tahaa”.

Bob and I wanted to check out the resorts spa facilities and dining options, so we changed into our “ Sunday Best” beach wear and headed over to the landing dock.

We were greeted by a friendly security guard, who inquired politely if we had a reservation. Quite obviously we were not resort guests as we were arriving in a dinghy. Privacy is taken very seriously for the guests in this resort and every effort is made to enforce that. We explained that we wished to check out the spa facilities and availability. A quick radio call was made to the front desk and we were instructed to proceed to where a resort representative would meet us.

We were greeted by Stephanie, (who spoke perfect English) she couldn’t have been more helpful or kind, talking us through all the facilities offered at the resort and taking the time to show us around the restaurants, unfortunately we were unable to visit the spa as it was occupied at that time, although the list of spa treatment offered sound so tempting we will definitely be back. All the staff we met during our short time at the resort were absolutely lovely, very polite, helpful and accommodating, each guest here is made to feel special and nothing is too much trouble.

There are three restaurants within the resort, “La Plage (The Beach)” which is just off the beach, this is open (as long as the resort is not full) to non residents with a reservation. “Vanilla” which is on the upper level reached by stairs cut into a tree in the main building. The cocktail bar and Gourmet restaurant are also on this level. Both restaurants and bar have a fabulous view out through the trees to the beach, Islands and ocean beyond. Some of the tables in the Vanilla restaurant are situated on individual decks outside, over the gardens below, to create an intimate environment, but there is a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.  The Gourmet restaurant is a much smaller, enclosed, intimate dining area where, judging by the menu, “fine dining” is a certainty.

Stephanie was very proud to inform us that the restaurant is expecting a Michelin star in 2018, which would make them the first and only restaurant in French Polynesia to have one.

Before leaving the resort we asked to visit the beach bar for a cocktail, where we were able to view more of the resorts facilities. The cocktails were, as expected from a five star resort, quite pricey, for example, a Kir Royal will set you back $34. A couple of cocktails here could send a red alert to your visa!

However, as should be expected from a five star resort, I’m sure that Le Tahaa Private Island and Spa, is more than capable of meeting the most demanding expectations.

The resorts isolated location on Motu Tau Tau, just across from the Island of Tahaa is absolutely sublime. The amazing views from the resort look to Tahaa opposite and Bora Bora to the West.

The accommodation is comprised of luxurious overwater bungalows as well as beach side bungalows with their own pool; every option is designed with luxury in mind, providing supreme levels of comfort and space. The water sport options include the use of kayaks, paddleboards, jet-ski and snorkel equipment.

For snorkeling enthusiasts it doesn’t get much better. This location next to the amazing Coral Gardens is just fabulous. Bob and I snorkeled here every day, sometimes twice a day for up to two hours a time, or until we were so wrinkly our masks were in danger of becoming permanent fixtures on our faces.

With all the places we have traveled worldwide, the coral gardens of Tahaa have some of the best snorkeling anywhere. It’s too shallow for diving, but the gardens are well protected from the elements, so even when a 20 knot wind is blowing the water is calm and easy to swim and the fish abundant. Once I get the fish identification book I ordered, I will catalogue all the species I’ve seen so far, some of which I’m familiar with, but most of them are completely unknown to me, the coral gardens are abundant with hundreds of different species. Bob and I have taken thousands, and I mean thousands of photographs, along with hours of film on the GoPro. It will take us months to edit and sort through it all. Be warned “future guests on Daisy” you will be subjected to hours of fish photo & film viewing.

I only have two reservations with this resort; the first, is that the coral gardens attract dozens sometimes hundreds of tourists daily, which are brought over from Tahaa and Raiatea by the boatload, starting about 8am each morning until 4pm each afternoon. The tourists are not able to access the grounds of the resort, as there are security guards at either end, however, for any resort guests wishing to snorkel the gardens they would have to deal daily with the crowds of tourists.

Bob and I attempted to get across to the gardens each morning before the first boatload arrived. As long as we were able to get in before the first boat we were OK. The guides spend about 10 – 15 minutes going over instructions before letting the people in the water.

The only other downside (in my opinion) to Le Tahaa resort, is how much expansion has occurred over the last couple of years. I can’t help feeling that they’re at risk of loosing the intimacy of the resort. Other than that this place is amazing. I’ll write more on the resort after sampling the restaurants and spa…

 

For more information go to: www.letahaa.com

To make a reservation for lunch at Le Plage, call: 60 84 00

Shark Bait! For The Love of Tomatoes

While tomatoes have always been one of my favorites in the fruit and vegetable group, I’ve previously taken them for granted, they don’t exactly fall under the “luxury” food category and are plentiful in any supermarket, at least that was before I came to the Pacific.

I had provisioned really well for our 25 day crossing from Panama to the Marquises Islands, that being said, the fruit and vegetables ran out after the first couple of weeks at sea and I found myself craving apples and tomatoes, a somewhat strange combination; it’s odd what you crave when deprived of a simple thing.

Upon our arrival in Nuku Hiva, I was dismayed by the limited selection of fruit and vegetables available. On an Island where the soil is so rich anything would grow, I expected to find fruit and vegetables in abundance, this was not the case. The one saving grace and to my great delight, I discovered “Pamplemousse”, a large citrus fruit resembling a giant grapefruit but very sweet and without any of the bitterness of grapefruit. Pamplemousse is now one of my favorite fruits and happily available in great abundance throughout the Islands. However, there was not much else in the fruit line, some imported oranges and occasionally some apples, obviously there were bananas and plantain, starfruit, guava, watermelon and coconut. Mango (my favorite fruit) was out of season, as was pineapple. Nothing at all in the berry family, I was so disappointed but managed to make the best of it with the limited selection available to me.

A ship arrives once a month from Tahiti bringing supplies to the Islands, but it all disappears in an instant between the “fruit and veggie craving cruisers” and the Islanders, it’s gone in a heartbeat, so you need to be quick. There are no tomatoes, ever in the supermarkets, lettuce appears only in your dreams, but you can get potatoes (usually old and soft), onions, garlic, eggplant, breadfruit, boc choy, tarro, squash, sometimes celery, and a couple of other local vegetables that I was unfamiliar with.

We were in Nuku Hiva a few weeks before I learnt of the “Fresh Fruit & Veg Market” that’s held twice a week in the harbour by the local farmers, not exactly held at convenient times, 4am on a Saturday, and 6am on a Wednesday. As we usually don’t get ashore much before 9am the markets have long finished by the time we arrived. When another cruiser told me of the market I decided to check it out and drag Trish, from our buddy boat “Babe” to go with me.

We arrived in the harbor about 6:15am to discover that it had started at 4am and everything was gone. The fishermen were on the dock cleaning and selling their freshly caught fish. We stood and watched for a few minutes, large numbers of Hammerhead sharks were thrashing greedily about in the water below, devouring all the fish guts thrown in by the fishermen. Trish and I bought a couple of fish, at least our early morning start would show some reward. Pushing the image of the hammerheads only feet from my dinghy to the back of my mind we cautiously returned to Babe and Daisy, determined to get to the next market, on time.

It was Paul who accompanied me to the next market, I picked him up from Babe in the early hours, it was still pitch black as we made our way precariously towards the harbor, there were no lights and I couldn’t see where I was going, Paul was at the front of the dinghy looking out for bouys and any unlit boats at anchor, we went way off track as we couldn’t see the harbor and ended up the other side of the bay. By now dawn was breaking slowly and we were finally able to see where we were and make our way back.
The whole time we were bobbing around in the waves looking for the shore and the harbor I couldn’t help remembering all the hammerhead sharks Trish and I had seen last time around the harbor; my imagination (like a crazy hamster on its wheel) was running riot, I had all sorts of visions of Paul and I ending up like the fish guts, as shark bait, and Bob and Trish finding Whoops-a-daisy floating, blood splattered and unmanned in the bay! All this for a few tomatoes and a lettuce, were we mad?

When Paul and I finally arrived at the market, there were three other people waiting, but the market had yet to open. We hung around and waited for about 20 minutes, gradually the number of people increased until there must have been about 30-40 of us, it was mostly French people, and they (like the Germans) don’t have much concept of queuing or “first come first served”!
As the shutters went up, and the market opened good manners went out the window, it was a mad house, like crazy people we all dove like lions on a kill, head first towards the precious fruit and veg.
Paul and I, being unfamiliar with the procedure and not at all prepared for the mayhem, had not formed a plan, but we didn’t let this didn’t hinder us as we sprung into action, with Paul one side of the stall and me the other, I was grabbing bags of tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and anything else I could throw in my bag, we were yelling across the crowds of crazy people at each other what we wanted, Paul was grabbing celery, leeks, BokChoy and any other much needed vegetables. I was engrossed in an elbow battle with a small French man for a bag of limes (I won). The chaos and mayhem taking place around me was somewhat reminiscent of the thrashing hammerheads fighting over fish guts, a pretty accurate comparison.
All for Tomatoes!

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Pacific Storms Manihi

 

Never having been to the Pacific before, the limited knowledge I had of it came from the experience’s relayed to me by Bob and Ed after their circumnavigation, TV, books and movies like South Pacific. I had a pretty firm idea of what it was going to be like, but as in all things, the reality can be quite different.
The Marquises couldn’t have been further from my imaginings of Pacific Islands, but not in a bad way, they were surprisingly, wonderfully different, majestic and unbelievably beautiful, and so far totally unspoiled by man.
The Tuomotos, a mere 400 miles south-west of the Marquises are as different as Islands could be. Where the Marquises have enormous volcanic cliffs that rise straight up from the dark blue water and disappear into the clouds; the seas surrounding the Tuomotos are the palest aqua deepening to brilliant turquoise and cerulean blue. The atoll’s are only as high as their tallest palm tree, and the roots of the trees are only as deep as one foot above sea level. During a cyclone many of the Islands are totally submerged, a scary thought, and something I’m not wanting to experience.
We planned our travel dates with care to avoid cyclone season, of course this doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a cyclone, Mother Nature is always full of surprises.

When we arrived at the first atoll, the Islands of Manihi, there were squalls all around and the skies looked threatening, not in a cyclonic sort of way, just dark and stormy. Our first and second days here were very, very windy but otherwise sunny and warm with only a few scattered storms coming and going. The first night we had winds over forty knots, the second day the winds were consistently around the high twenty’s but it was sunny and hot. The afternoon and evening of the second day it clouded over squalls gathered all around the lagoon and the rain started. It rained heavily on and off all through the night and the following morning (our third day) we woke to black skies with exceptionally strong winds gusting to over forty knots and rain. As the day went on the weather grew steadily worse. Fortunately Oyster boats are strong and solid, if Daisy was to have any leaks we would certainly have found them during this storm, happily there were none, “well done Oyster”. We had a totally dry ship to shelter us. The anchor was holding fast throughout the storms so we were quite safe. Since we were ship-bound we looked for jobs to do aboard. Bob was once again tearing into the damn generator, as there was now a fault in the electric box, something he has been meaning to relocate since we had Daisy, but it was always one of those jobs so far down the list, he simply never got to it. The electric box is located in a place where it’s subject to constant vibration when the genny is running, consequently the wires inside were often working lose. Re-locating the box would solve that problem, but it was a huge time consuming, complicated job. “so what’s new!” This was the perfect opportunity to get on with it.

Throughout the day there were times that the rain was so heavy we couldn’t even see the shore, which was only four or five hundred feet away. I hate storms, and need a distraction to stop me bobbing up and down every five minutes, like a rabbit in its burrow, to see whether the storm is about to become a cyclone and take us out!

By way of a distraction, and since we were “ship-bound”, I set about reorganizing the storage of the provisions and updating the computer with the new list, this took me the best part of the day but was a job well done. Another fun task was scrubbing the teak floor in the cockpit during the storm. It was a wet, cold job, but the next morning when everything had dried, the floor looked absolutely beautiful, thank you Mother Nature for rinsing all the soap away. and giving Daisy such a great wash down. “Oh and thanks for not sending us a cyclone”. I do hope I don’t regret saying that!

The Tuamotu’s, “The Dangerous Archipelago”

 

First Stop: “Manihi”
June 5th 2016
Daisy and Babe left Taiohae Bay early Sunday afternoon, for our 600 mile crossing to Manihi. Winds were light but initially just enough for us to raise the sails, although throughout the crossing the winds dropped so low we had to motor for half of the trip. It was an uneventful crossing, with sadly no sightings of whales or even dolphins, just an occasional flying fish and a Boobie, one which stayed with us all throughout the night, but was long gone at first light. For most of the crossing we were within sight of Babe, and kept in constant contact over the VHF. On the evening of the third night we headed off towards Manihi while Babe continued on to Rangiroea to collect their daughter who was flying in on the 10th.

The Tuamotu’s have a reputation as “the dangerous archipelago” due to the shallow seas around the atolls, all of which are only as high as their tallest palm tree with the roots being only one foot above sea level.
Thanks to the French Government basing their nuclear testing activities here for 33 years (1963 – 1996) the atolls now have quite limited and austere resources. The people have created themselves a more economic future with the development of the cultured Black Pearl, which is now the primary resource after tourism (also one of my main reasons for wanting to visit these islands).

We arrived at the Tairapa Pass (the entrance into the lagoon) just after four in the afternoon on Wednesday 8th June. The skies were heavy with cloud, squalls were visible all around the lagoon; with little sun the visibility was less than perfect for seeing through the water. I stood on the pulpit with the radio to watch and advise Bob of any raised coral heads or shallows as we made our way through. Traversing the pass was more than a little scary, as the depth was barely over seven feet in places and we draw six feet three inches, so it was really close.

Once safely through the pass and into the safety of the lagoon, we made our way to the anchorage and got Daisy secured before sitting back and relaxing with a beer. We were both exhausted after the trip, neither of us had managed to get much restful sleep in the last twenty-four hours and we were feeling the effects. I made a quick dinner of Coconut Crusted Shrimp with a sweet Chili Sauce, Crispy Sautéed Potatoes and sweet baby Peas. We watched a little television and fell into bed about nine, which was actually only eight-thirty, as we had crossed another time zone on our way here. We’re now 6 hours behind the States and 11 hours behind the UK. We enjoyed a long, peaceful, much needed nights sleep, in fact we slept until eight-thirty, a full twelve hours! We’re both usually up long before seven, so it just goes to show how tired we must have been.

It’s really quite beautiful here inside the lagoon, although the angry sound of the thundering waves crashing spectacularly on the shores surrounding the atoll are a constant reminder of the power of the ocean. Happily, I feel quite safe and protected here inside and excited to be here. I spotted several Pearl farms dotted around inside on our way in yesterday, I can’t wait to go pearl shopping.

Our first day in Manihi was spent much the same as usual after a crossing, arriving at a new location, doing boat chores! I tidied and cleaned around inside, gave the cockpit a much needed through cleaning and cleaned some of the stainless, while Bob spent the day installing the new heat exchanger on the generator. By tea-time (four O’clock) it appeared we finally had a fully functional generator, things were looking good, but only time will tell! I wouldn’t trust the damn thing not to break down again in a day or two. I officially hate Westerbeke Generators, ours has been an unreliable piece of junk for the last ten years, Bob has spent more man hours working on its repairs than all the other jobs on the boat put together. Happily, our water maker has been working brilliantly again since fitting the new membrain, so our water tanks are kept full and the water is crystal clear and drinkable. The new alternator fitted before leaving the Marquises has kept the batteries fully charged, so we’re in good shape. (until the generator goes wrong again!)

Day two, was going to be a fun day. After breakfast we took Whoops-a-Daisy (our dinghy) to look for a safe pass through the reef to the beach, after much searching, finding no breaks in the reef and not enough depth for us to motor in over it, we raised the motor and paddled towards the shore, with only an inch or two beneath us and the coral, it was not easy given the strong current, so eventually Bob got out and pulled us through. Once ashore we anchored “Whoops-a-Daisy in the sand and followed an inlet to the outer beach where the waves were crashing spectacularly onto the shore. It was exceptionally windy in this seemingly wild, isolated, untamed place. The shore was littered with beautiful shells, very busy hermit crabs and tons and tons of beautiful coral. I found some fabulous clam shells perfectly intact, and took just a couple to add to my shell collection (which, much to Bob’s chagrin, is growing). After an hour of exploring the beach both on the inside and outside shores of the lagoon, we did some snorkeling and I saw some of the most incredible (living) clams and sea creatures, the colors of which have to be seen to be believed. Then it was time to return to Daisy for a mid-day G&T before lunch. I served a Mackerel Escabeche, with a salad of cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce, a little potato salad, crusty French bread and a glass of chilled white wine, it was delicious…

Later that afternoon, the winds that had been blowing a gale all evening, had calmed a little during the morning, but early afternoon it kicked up another notch. We had forty plus knot winds throughout the night, and consistent twenty-eight knot winds throughout the day, thank goodness for the good holding here. Bob had gone to bed for an afternoon nap and I was making jewelry in the salon, when I noticed the sky had suddenly become very dark. Up on deck I was greeted with the sight of an enormous squall heading in our direction, it spread across the entire width of the lagoon, like a fearful black monster, from one side to the other and on out to sea, and it was traveling towards us at speed. I immediately woke Bob and we set about making the boat safe, closing up the dodger, putting all the deck cushions away, closing all the hatches, bringing Whoops-a-Daisy up on the davits, not the easiest task with her splashing and bouncing violently up and down in the building waves. Having checked the anchor and made sure all was well, we just beat the first of the rains as we ducked below. Bob put the tracker on so we could monitor the movement of Daisy as she shifted and strained against the growing winds. This is not what I expected from the Tuamotu’s, I guess I should have done my homework and read a bit more about them!

Correction to Post “Our Fabulous Week in Hiding””

It turns out that there is a restaurant in Anaho bay, it wasn’t “Chez Juliette” as mentioned in the guide book, but a sea facing room in a private house. There are no signs, nothing to indicate it serves meals; had it not been for our friends Sue and Alan we would never have known it was there. Anyway, we made a reservation and went across with another cruiser John, from the sailing yacht Quest.
There were three tables, to seat up to six people per table, and a small cot in the corner of the room. We removed our shoes and left them outside the door, taking a seat at one of the tables we were immediately served a jug of fresh Pamplemouse juice and a jug of water. And very quickly our meal arrived, roasted chicken and rice. This is not a restaurant where you have a menu, they simply serve what they have, and as they do not fish in this bay, it’s chicken or goat. The chicken was delicious and the rice perfectly cooked. For desert they served a small slice of cake topped with coffee frosting, alongside a dish of Papaya and Pamplemouse. After the meal we were all given a little bag with a gift, mine was a locally hand made necklace and Bob and John had a bag of beautiful shells collected by the lady who owns the property, and a single black pearl. We walked back along the beach to our dinghy passing hundreds of sand crabs, all scuttling back to their holes in the sand. The shallow water of the bay is full of stingrays, so one has to be very careful not to step on them, particularly in the dark. There are also guest rooms available in the bay, but we did not see them, so I am unable to write about them other than to say that they are there.

If It Can, It Will !

It’s 3am, I can’t sleep, so I’m sitting in the dark, in the rain, on deck, staring at the boats in the bay wondering again how any of us manage to live this way! I recently met a guy living on a sailboat without a water maker or any refrigeration, I asked him how on earth he managed to live that way, his reply “it’s just like camping”.

In this heat, where I shower four times a day, and run the air con to keep the boat cool, camping sounded like a test of endurance, not something I wanted to try.

When Bob recently managed to diagnose a problem with our alternator the solution seemed simple, he ordered another one online, had it shipped (free shipping) to Ed in the States, where Ed dismantled it for us and sent us the replacement parts. (The reason for dismantling it is because it was so damn heavy it would cost a small fortune to ship the complete unit.)

It cost hundreds of dollars to ship out the parts needed as fast as possible, which were then held up in customs in Tahiti for a month. In the meantime our generator developed a problem, it stopped running, and would start, run for 3 – 4 seconds then shut down. Working all through the night and into the early hours of the morning, Bob finally gave up and fell into bed exhausted at 4am. Starting on it again at 7am, in better light he managed to locate the problem, “the fuel solenoid” the ONLY spare part Bob doesn’t have onboard! After many hours he had managed to remove the solenoid and rig the generator so it would run, but would have to be turned off manually. This is far from an ideal solution, but in an emergency (and this was) it was the only way we could run the generator.

We have a freezer, two refrigerators and a water maker on board, not to mention all the other multiple systems, all powered by a bank of batteries charged by the generator, or the alternator, the solar panels and the wind generator, the latter two really only being for back up.

When the alternator went wrong it wasn’t a problem as we still had the generator, the solar panels and the wind generator, then the generator broke so we only had the solar panels and the wind generator, they could not alone even closely produce enough power to run all the systems, but Bob managed to once again rig the generator so it would run. But then it went wrong again, with yet another problem. We have turned off one of the fridges, and may have to turn off the freezer as well (the freezer is completely full right now), then pray the solar panels and wind generator will produce enough power to run the basic systems we really need until the repairs can be completed, that is of course if we can get the parts needed! A very big “IF”.

Had we been close to civilization we could simply go alongside and plug in, sadly we are about 1000 miles from the closest island with a marina.

Just to add insult to injury, the weather has taken a turn for the worst and is raining non stop so we can’t have any windows open, and without air con the boat is like a sauna, with all the heavy cloud cover the solar panels are unable to produce power, so we are royally screwed…

We’re gradually turning off everything so as to limit the drain on the batteries, we have even been reduced to lighting the cockpit at night with my decorative candles to save putting the anchor light on, (something else that drains power from the batteries).

The fun just goes on and on :o)

Our Fabulous Week in Hiding

Anaho Bay

Saturday 23rd April
Early Saturday morning we followed our friends Rick and Roz, in their Oyster ‘Reya’, out of the bay of Taiohae, where we’ve been for the last three weeks, for a four hour sail around the coast to the sublime bay of Anaho.
The sail around was a little rolly, but the sighting of the rare “Melonhead Dolphins, (or Electra Dolphins), swimming up close and around Daisy was worth any discomfort on my part. These dolphins are only found around Nuku Hiva (according to the guide book), they were of average size but had completely round faces with no beak, almost cherub like in appearance, It was such a thrill to see them.

Anaho Bay is the most sheltered anchorage on the northeast coast of Nuku Hiva, and one of the Islands best-kept secrets, easily one of the most beautiful bays in the Marquises. The beauty of the bay defies adequate description, I was bowled over by my surroundings. The enormous, naturally sculptured green cliffs that tower impressively over and around the bay on three sides are absolutely breathtaking. I would defy anyone not to be in awe of this magical place.
There was a lovely white sand beach with a few small dwellings, discreetly nestled among the palm trees, a little way back from the shore. The water was totally calm, with little movement other than the gentle lapping waves on the shore. Daisy sat quietly and almost motionless at anchor, yet there was still a lovely cooling breeze. It’s really hard to feel connected to the outside world here, the bay has a wondrous sense of seclusion about it. It is also one of the only bays on the Island that can boast a coral reef, so its the best place to snorkel.
The guide book had mentioned a restaurant “Chez Juliette” as well as a guest house with five bungalows and two rooms, however, we found no evidence of any restaurant or guest house in operation, there was a good size building just off the beach that could well have been a restaurant once upon a time, but seemed to be just a private dwelling now with a small chapel next door and a little house attached. Work with diggers was going on around the buildings so maybe they are working on extending or building a restaurant, although one couldn’t help but wonder how a restaurant could survive in such an isolated location, with only cruisers as customers; I wouldn’t have thought there were enough of us to warrant a profitable business. And as to how the diggers got there, I have no clue! The only access to this location is a ninety minute long, steep trek over the cliffs by foot or hoof (pony) or by boat, so feasibly they must have been brought in by boat, but how they got them ashore I have no idea! Each morning a small motor boat left the bay with a couple of the local men and arrived back late afternoon, other than that and the occasional yacht arriving or leaving there was little to no activity. The bay was unbelievably peaceful, it was utter bliss.

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We spent our days lazily, with small jobs of boat maintenance, reading, snorkeling and walking on the beach. I spotted a baby black tip shark swimming very close to shore, a beautiful turtle and a quick glimpse of a manta ray as it surfaced. While snorkeling we saw several Octopus, Trigger fish, Butterfly fish, Tangs, Domino’s, Electric blue’s, and so many other fabulous fish, simply too many to mention. Our evenings were mostly spent in the company of Rick and Roz, taking turns to host on Reya and Daisy with cocktails and snacks and teaching them to play Rumikube and Mexican train.
I did my first dive using the “Snuba”, a devise that allows you to dive without an air tank on your back, instead you have a mouth piece attached to a long tube, which goes up to a floatable devise on the surface, which provides you with air. The tube is attached to a weight belt so if you should accidentally drop the mouth piece , it wouldn’t be difficult to grab it again. I found the air tubes a bit of a nuisance to start with and kept getting myself tangled up, but once I’d sorted that out it became much easier; my other problem was not enough weights, I couldn’t sink to the ocean bed, diving down was much harder than I had realized, I was amazed at how buoyant a body is. It was all quite exhausting, but I’m sure I’ll find it much easier once I have the weights sorted allowing me to dive down without so much effort.
Sadly, after a week in this amazing bay, we needed to dispose of our garbage bags, and also re-provision, so the decision was made to return to Taiohae bay for a couple of days. This would also give us chance to Skype with our family and attend to any urgent emails or correspondence that were overdue.
The sail back was really lovely, even I enjoyed it. It was a smooth, slow sail about 5-6 knots, we saw a few common Dolphins but sadly no Melonheads. Maybe on our trip back to Anaho we will see them again. I’ll have the camera at the ready…

Food & Drink!

I recently posted about my amazing provisioning skills, perhaps I shouldn’t have boasted quite so loudly!  I had wondered at the time whether I’d perhaps gone a little over the top with my mega shop, however, as it turns out I really should have bought more, not food, but alcohol.  Although I should point out for anyone coming this way; stock up as much as you can store in Panama before you leave, for a few months at least.  Food selections here are limited and VERY expensive.

I may, over the next few months, regard the occasional drink as a real treat;  yesterday bob and I visited one of the local supermarkets to stock up on wine and beer before leaving for the next group of Islands (where there is nothing).

We both left the store with only two cases of beer and no wine,  a little in shock at the prices!  The beer (a can not a bottle) was almost $3, wine (the cheap stuff) started at $20, for bottles that would be about $5 back in the States, the table wine we usually drink was $45, champagne (not a great one) was $100, Absolute Vodka which I pay $18 a bottle for at home was $61.  All the spirits were well over $40.  Even a gallon of water was $5.  Thankfully we have a water maker onboard, which will be productive again once the customs in Tahiti release our new membrane from their clutches; the paperwork and nonsense involved in importing parts and getting them through customs  is ridiculous.  Not much we can do about any of it, so we’re out exploring and having fun…